THE FAMOUS HOW-CAN-WE QUESTION
QUESTION: How can we become free from material desires?
ANSWER: I had opportunity once to ask Srila Prabhupada a question. I put it this way: “How can we give up attachment to this material body?”
In Bhagavad-gita 2.14 we find Krishna's first practical instruction. Tāṁs titikṣasva. Tolerate. Tolerate what? We tolerate the dualities of life. Prabhupada gave a very powerful lecture on this verse, and then I asked my question. Actually, I said: “How can we give up this desire?” And Prabhupada answered: “No desire!”, and then he proceeded to quote the Rupa Goswami's famous verse:
ānukülyena kṛṣṇānu-śīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā (BRS 1.1.11)
He explained this verse on what pure bhakti is, and then he gave a list of examples of different devotional activities one can do for Krishna. He said: “You can clean the temple for Krishna, cook for Krishna, do the worship of the deity for Krishna…” he went on and the final example that he gave in this list, was: “You can drive a car for Krishna!”
At this point everyone present laughed, and the reason why everyone laughed was that the devotees knew at that time that I was the temple driver. I was one of the few devotees who had a driving license, so this was my “big” qualification and my service.
I am quite sure that this was not a subject which was informed to Srila Prabhupada. He was visiting our temple, this was in Germany, in 1974, there were so many devotees and I was just one of the many brahmacaris. There was for sure no reason whatsoever that any of his secretaries or whoever would have had reason to say: “Srila Prabhupada, here is this devotee, his name is Krishna Kshetra das, and he is the temple driver.” Absolutely no reason. Therefore, when Prabhupada said: “You can drive a car for Krishna!” I thought, “Oh, this is really interesting. Prabhupada somehow or other knows!” How? Because paramatma is there. He must know. Krishna tells him as he needs to know.
To answer your question, this is our process… Prabhupada emphasized many times that it is a gradual process. Gradual and, speaking of pure devotional service, Srila Prabhupada used the word unalloyed. The word comes from metallurgy.
Most items which are made of gold are not pure gold, because pure gold is extremely soft. The metal cannot keep structure for any object that you make out of pure gold. Twenty-four karat gold is just too soft. So, they mix it with some other metal. How do you get unalloyed gold? You have to heat it. What is the word for heat in Sanskrit? Tapa. Austerity. Srila Prabhupada once defined it as voluntarily accepting some difficulty for the purpose of serving the Lord. Just like the heating process by which the gold of our Krishna consciousness becomes pure. For this process to work we must be convinced that indeed there is pure gold, that indeed we have the potential of pure devotional service.
What often keeps us from that purity is the sense that “Actually I am so mixed. My devotion is so mixed that maybe it is not possible.” No, we have to cultivate the conviction that pure devotional service is possible and for that we have to also be ready to allow the heart to become completely soft. This is a challenge because one of our tendencies as living beings with material bodies is to make into our priority the animal functions: eating, sleeping, procreation and defending. Especially this defending tendency is there, and therefore we are putting some hard shell around the heart. Because we feel that “In order to live in this world I have to defend myself.”
So, bhakti is very much about letting go, in the conviction that the pure gold of the heart will be all that we need. Hare Krishna!
—From a lecture by Krishna Kshetra Swami on SB 7.15.20 at Juhu ISKCON temple, Mumbai, on January 15, 2017.
ONE POWERFUL MANTRA
Sometimes devotees come to me with problems. And sometimes one sits down and says, taking a deep, deep breath, “Maharaja, I have this problem,” and then there comes something really big, really bad, a real problem, with the sincere question, “What shall I do about it?”
Lately I have come up with a bit of a “mantra”. It seems to actually work. Do you know what it is?
And if you cannot serve cows directly, serve them indirectly. There are a lot of ways. And if you cannot serve them indirectly, serve them directly. Get a brush! Cows love to be brushed. Cows tend… Once they learn to know you, they will come to you in this mood, “Come on, brush me!”
And doing it you may find that your problem gradually (or quickly) gets resolved or dissolved…
—From the lecture “Keeping cows in the centre” by Krishna Kshetra Swami in New Vrajamandala ISKCON temple, Spain, on May 27, 2019.